Email killer or the future of messaging? That was the question on the minds of social  experts and tech pundits around the world yesterday, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled yet another social innovation, Facebook Messaging. Now Messaging in Facebook is nothing new. Zuckerberg says more than four billion messages are currently sent through Facebook each day. He also shared that Facebook believes that modern messaging is seamless, informal, immediate, personal, simple and minimal. “It’s not e-mail,” he said.

So it’s not email. Then what is it?

An integrated messaging platform

To start off with the company will be handing out email addresses to all users. However, unlike its competitors, such as Gmail and Yahoo, the modern Facebook Messaging system is designed to more reflect chat than an email service. The official Facebook blog on the topic sums it up best.

“Imagine the kind of family you might see in a modern American sitcom: loving parents trying to maintain a family unit with a teenager engrossed in text messaging, a college-aged child who is always chatting online, and various wacky relatives who spend their days sending “funny” emails to the family.

This is an admittedly exaggerated stereotype but one we see every day in movies, TV and advertising because most of us can relate to parts of it. Between mobile devices and the Internet we can be more connected today than ever before, but there is still a feeling that the technology can also act as a barrier between us. When I want to share with someone it should be as simple as deciding who I want to share with and what I want to say.  It should feel more like a human conversation”

With that in mind, the modern Facebook Messaging platform has been designed to integrate seamlessly with SMS, online chat, email and Facebook Messaging. You simply choose the friend you wish to communicate with and they receive the message on the device or platform they choose. Technology is removed and a real conversation can take place.

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A more social-centric inbox

As a social platform, Facebook messaging was always going to place emphasis on the social aspect of messaging. Unlike email, that streams messages in a time based manner, Facebook messages are managed as conversations. Any message, sent through any medium will be grouped to that particular friend. Meaning a child growing up with Facebook in their lives from the start, will have access to conversations developed throughout a lifetime. An awesome thought.

Connectivity is also not limited to Facebook. People outside of your friends will be able to reach you via the new Facebook email address, their messages will just be filtered into an inbox titled “Other”, keeping your social experiences away from your professional or official experiences. “It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement. It’s not that those other messages aren’t important, but one of them is more meaningful” says Zuckerberg.

Facebook’s end goal is to do away with the arbituary 10 digits cell numbers we own or the random collection of letters that are our email addresses. They are still a way off, but eventually getting hold of someone is going to be as simple as selecting their name and sending a message instantly.

Only a handful of Facebook staff and industry leaders have access to the new messaging so far, but the rollout will be happening gradually over the next few months. With over 500 million users to date, and growing fast, there is no doubt in our mind that this latest offering from Facebook is taking the social world another giant step forward.